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The Top 5 Organizational Values for the Modern Workplace

Everywhere we look today it seems there are challenges with employee engagement, resulting in larger cultural issues like the "Great Resignation". We made a list of the top organizational values to jumpstart the conversation about how we can make things better.
January 13, 2022 · 5 min read

Where has all the good work gone?

I decided to write on this topic as I've heard a lot of chatter lately about bad work environments and poor employee engagement. This fits in squarely with the wider narrative surrounding the Great Resignation. In my opinion it's the result of a breakdown of trust. We're seen the erosion of trust on a national and even global level, but it's also trickling down to the employer-employee relationship. People are really unhappy in their jobs, and when presented with other options, are leaving existing employers in droves. It seems that this is the case across industries and job categories.

It's a two-way street. Oftentimes with these matters, we seem to villainize business owners/managers and sympathize with their mistreated employees. Employees are kept away from the day-to-day stresses of running a business and/or department, and make assumptions without knowing the reality of certain situations. As with most things in life, I think the truth is always somewhere in the middle. The employer-employee relationship should never be something contentious. Both are on the same team, working toward shared goals, and ideally in an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Whatever the case, right now across industries employee engagement is at a low point, and it's coming at a high cost. Consider Gallup’s meta-analysis of decades’ worth of data: It shows that high engagement—defined largely as having a strong connection with one’s work and colleagues, feeling like a real contributor, and enjoying ample chances to learn—consistently leads to positive outcomes for both individuals and organizations. The rewards include higher productivity, better-quality products, and increased profitability.

So, how do we build this type of high-engagement environment? It's certainly a larger topic that we won't resolve in a blog post, but we've made a list of "The Top 5 Organizational Values for the Modern Workplace" and in an effort to shed light on some values we think could bridge the gap.

1. High-Trust

It seems fitting to start with the value that is most important and hardest to obtain; trust. Creating a high-trust workplace means that there exists a two-way street of honest communication and mutual understanding. It creates an environment where people are able to have difficult conversations without fear of hurting feelings. An employee would feel free to call something out to their leaders rather than holding it in or putting out veiled threats of litigation. In return they are open to hearing hard truths because they trust their leader has their best interest in mind. Leaders in these environments thrive on open and honest communication. They can give critical feedback without fear of someone quitting, but are also open to hearing about ways they can improve. It also means people are properly compensated for their work. In essence, it's an environment where everyone is free to do their best work because they trust that the person next to them has their best interest in mind. They have each other's backs.

2. Psychological Safety

Most of these values branch out from a core of trust. Creating an environment of psychological safety means that people have the freedom to speak up with new ideas, questions or concerns. It means that there are no stupid questions or ideas. People are free to try new things without fear of reprisal. Of course there will be bad ideas, but giving people the freedom to try is the key. This type of environment breeds acceptance, creativity, and perhaps most importantly a culture of innovation.

3. Autonomy // Asynchronous Work

If the pandemic has taught us anything it's that work can be done from anywhere at any time. We no longer have to be stuck in a model of work based on the past, where all employees are expected to sit in the same office at the same time on the same days. Just as every person has unique identities and lifestyles, the way we do work should reflect this. Some people might do their best work late at night or early in the morning. They might have to work from home a couple days of week because of an obligation to care for a relative. As long as the work is done at a high level, the where and when should not matter. Modern communication tools like slack and video are enabling truly asynchronous work. This is likely to persist in the future even when things become more "normal".

4 Diverse & Inclusive

The greater representation an organization has, the better their products and services will be positioned to serve society. We live in a multicultural and diverse society and the most successful products and services will be made with this in mind. Diversity means not only incorporating intentional practices to remove bias in hiring and promoting, particularly in regards to gender and ethnicity, but also means we need to look for diverse backgrounds and experiences. It means a general openness to people from all walks of life. More diversity increases the potential for new ideas and ways of thinking. It spurs innovation and creativity.

5. High-Performance

If you've been fortunate enough to establish the above values, you've earned the right to build a high-performance culture. It's a gift to have the opportunity to do great work in an environment where there are proper rewards and incentives. If an employer cares so much that they have built a high-trust, safe, flexible and inclusive environment, they have earned the right to expect great work from their employees. The opportunity to produce great work is what the most talented people in the world are looking for anyways. They crave the opportunity to produce optimally and contribute to something larger than themselves.